By Cynthia Dagenais
Valentine’s Day: red and pink, biggest date night of the year, hearts, kisses, flowers. But most of all, chocolate!
For all those people out there that popped a few more chocolate pieces from cardboard heart-shaped boxes than their winter diet allowed, no need to worry. There are naturally more benefits to this candy than you think.
When asked why he eats chocolate, Marist College student Nicholas Palumbo said, “Well, I actually eat a handful of M&M’s before a huge exam because of the multiple benefits that come with chocolate.”
Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, which is grown in the tropical regions of the Americas. The beans are roasted and the shells are removed to extract what is called the nib. The nibs are ground and liquefied, resulting in chocolate in a fluid form.
This fluid is also known as chocolate liquor, which can be further processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Add sugar and other ingredients and voila! Chocolate! Click here to watch how chocolate is made.
Chocolate contains many different chemicals that can boost your mood. Chocolate contains a number of substances that give ‘natural highs’, including caffeine, theobromine and phenylethylamine. This chemical is produced by the body when people are in love.
Neurophysiologist Dr. David Lewis led a study to find out the physiological effects of chocolate on kissing couples. His study found that when chocolate melts in the mouth, all regions of the brain are boosted far more intensely and longer lasting than the excitement produced by just kissing alone. It’s no wonder why giving chocolate is such a popular way to say “I love you.”
Other studies have shown that chocolate can help people suffering from depression. According to anxiety-and-depression-solutions.com, participants in the study with atypical depression, one of the most common types of depression, felt that chocolate had a positive effect on their feelings of irritability, sadness, and anxiety.
Dark chocolate is the healthiest choice. Dark chocolate contains more cacao, which has natural antioxidants called flavonoids that studies have shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the BNet Business Management website.
Milk chocolate, though it contains cacao like its sister, dark chocolate, contains more milk and sugar, which can inhibit the antioxidants from lowering high blood pressure that leads to heart problems, according to WebMD.com.
“Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate,” said Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy’s National Institute for Food and Research in Rome.
Because of the numerous studies being done on the health benefits of chocolate, Mars, Inc. recently developed a process to preserve the flavonoids in their candies that have in the past been unintentionally taken out of in the chocolate-making process.
Research is currently being done on the effects of chocolate for women suffering from PMS, dieting, hormone levels, concentration for taking exams, and other health concerns.
In summary, chocolate provides a healthy heart, more stimulation in the brain for kissing, and a natural high; three things that are perfect for setting the mood on Valentine’s Day.